In 1923, one of the most touching and melodramatic of legends connected with the ancient castles of England was brought vividly to the attention of an American readership by the reported appearance of “The Mistletoe Bride.”
This most thrilling of old English family legends tells of a bride who was lost on her wedding day and not found until fifty years afterward. Several versions of the legend are in existence. They represent the strange and tragic events as occurring in many different old families and castles.
Although there is some uncertainty concerning the supposed scene of this old tragedy, owing to its great antiquity, the researches of historians and antiquarians have proved that it most probably occurred at Bramshill House, in Hampshire, the seat of the very ancient Cope family.
T. F. Thiselton Dyer, who made the most exhaustive study of old English romances and mysteries, writes in his “Strange Pages from Family Papers”:— “The chest in which The Mistletoe Bride was found is shown to visitors at Bramshill House, Hampshire, the residence of Sir John Cope.”
Now, this statement was of peculiar interest because, in 1923, a charming American society girl, Miss Edna Hilton, had just become the bride of Captain Denzil Cope, heir of Sir Anthony Cope, the chief of the ancient family that had long occupied the old house.
Mrs Cope was well known in New York society as she was one of the Hilton family that inherited part of the Stewart millions. For several years, before her marriage, she lived in Paris, where her mother, Mrs Edward Baker Hilton, had a magnificent apartment.
Young Mrs Cope now virtually became the owner of the famous chest in which the poor bride was locked up and lost. Americans who knew her were intensely curious to know what experiences she would have with such a gruesome relic. It was said that persons staying in the house were kept awake at night by the stifled moans of a woman in terrible agony. They would hear muffled sounds like those of a person beating on the interior of a thick wooden chest.
There was little surprise in the considerable gossip that attached itself to the new Mrs Cope and her unusual home. The chattering classes of New York society discussed the matter at length. What would the new bride do with the tragic chest? Would she have the hardihood to climb into it herself? Would she send it away for fear of it being haunted by the bride who died in it? Would she remove the great lock that was the real cause of the tragedy? Continue reading